I look back in bemusement whenever I recall the original 1977 Star Wars.
It’s a terrific flick, don’t get me wrong. But each time I start thinking about it, I summon up remembrance of continuity issues past—specifically, that scene where Mark Hamill’s Luke Skywalker, out cold after being beaten up by mean-spirited Sand People, somehow shifts his head’s position on the ground without allowing the audience to witness the change. In the first shot, it’s facing the side. In a later shot, it’s facing up.
The Force is strong with that one, right? He moves so quickly, the camera doesn’t even capture it.
Of course, everyone makes mistakes, and it’s too small an issue to ruin the film. Yet it strikes me as bizarre that in such a slick, polished production, a little continuity error like this could slither past. Wouldn’t someone have caught this before it reached the theaters?
Perhaps director George Lucas was concentrating more on the big picture when reviewing the film. He definitely had a lot to oversee, all things considered. Still, the paradox of great movies featuring tiny gaffes remains a constant. One can turn to Akira Kurosawa’s Throne of Blood, which allegedly saw the director order the set rebuilt after viewing a component that wouldn’t have appeared in the story’s era, yet contains a visible cut jumping from Toshiro Mifune’s still-alive Washizu to one pierced through the neck with an arrow. Or check out Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo, in which Kim Novak’s faux Madeleine disappears into a house with no other exit, thereby befuddling both Scottie (Jimmy Stewart), who has followed her, and the audience. Or look into Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, where the army attacking Mordor finds itself mounted on horses in one shot and dismounted, with the steeds nowhere to be seen, in another.
There’s nothing we can so about this but suspend disbelief. These flicks are good enough to wave off continuity quibbles. As an audience, however, do we have a right to perfection for our money? Or just greatness? Am I asking too much that a film be error-free?
Perhaps. I’ll keep enjoying all the movies above, of course—nothing’s different there. I may, though, break a smile each time I watch these continuity-challenged scenes, in recognition of the idea that even masterpieces aren’t infallible.
It’s a good way to feel good about a good movie, isn’t it? I’ve already convinced myself that that’s true.